Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP)

Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP)


First generation Nuclear Thermal Propulsion,
or “NTP,” could enable both faster transit between the earth and Mars, and a series of
advanced space missions. Nuclear Thermal Propulsion is powered by nuclear fission, which has been
used on earth for more than seventy years. How it works is conceptually simple – energy
from fission is used to heat hydrogen to ~4400 F. This hydrogen is then accelerated through
a nozzle resulting in a propellant efficiency roughly twice that of the best chemical rocket
engines. Nuclear Thermal Propulsion was considered for use in the Apollo program, and significant
development and ground testing was accomplished. Advances in technology since the 1960s may
improve its affordability, viability, and acceptability. For example, it may be possible
to fuel modern NTP systems with low-enriched uranium instead of highly enriched uranium.
In addition, it may now be possible to ground test NTP systems at established safe, self-contained
rocket engine test facilities. For human Mars missions, the physical size of an NTP engine
is largely determined by the rate at which fission energy can be transferred to the hydrogen
propellant. However, the equivalent volume of the uranium that would be split is actually
quite small, roughly that of a toy marble. That energy is used to get astronauts to Mars
faster, NTP can take months off the trip compared to using traditional chemical systems, reducing
risks associated with exposure to galactic cosmic radiation, microgravity, and other
hazards of deep space travel. The maturation of Nuclear Thermal Propulsion
will also facilitate the development of fission surface power systems, enabling a power-rich
environment at any exploration location. Abundant power could also be used for In-Situ Resource
Utilization, life support, communication, and other diverse applications. First generation
NTP systems are a first step towards advanced nuclear propulsion systems capable of travel
throughout the solar system.

30 Replies to “Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP)”

  1. Hey guys at NASA is this like the nuclear propulsion Russia developed a few months ago? I remember reading an article about how it looked so promising that they wanna start testing in 2018?

  2. One possible issue with Mars-bound NTP: slowing down takes just as much energy as speeding up. Right now – with chemical propellants – a Mars capture doesn't involve much energy.

  3. isnt this idea agianst the nuke test treaty?
    like: no nukes in space?
    or does low enriched uranium not cound.

  4. How do you prevent structural chamber failure due to overheating in such an engine? It is hard to imagine how conventional systems (eg curtaining) without wasting propellant and thus reducing the advantage of nuclear propulsion.

  5. I understand Mars will be at its closest to Earth around 5/22/16. Are we using this closeness to our advantage? Could save on propellant.

  6. because better use the energie gathers and combine it with nuclear electromagnetic [propotion all hot fuel is also esiste magnetic momentum with the right combinations to be the more ships veils the planet, you will achieve nasa

  7. this could also be used for sending rovers to titanĀ Ā Ā  which is also and interesting world

  8. Shouldnt we be moving away from uranium as a fuel source rather than keep trying to come up with new uses for it? If history has taught us anything its that when things go wrong with uranium they go way wrong.

  9. Monatomic propellantā€”means less rotational and vibrational energy lossĀ in the exhaust, But, with nuclear power resourcing the energy is that important; I figured NASA would be using water for simplicity of loading, ice-solid structure bearing, general utility and finally 'blizzard' propellant… (And I calculated tonnage for 1.5-roundtrips in theĀ solar system)…

  10. I wonder, could you replace the fission reactor with a tokamak like fusion reactor and still get similar efficiency and thrust?

  11. I know this is an old video but here's a question: Would it be possible to launch unenriched uranium from Earth to a station in orbit, enrich the fuel THERE, and then load it into interplanetary NTRs? I'm thinking this would be safer than launching enriched uranium on a rocket that may explode and scatter fallout. Is this viable or correct or cost effective?

  12. Good for getting out of a deep gravity well like Jupiter for sure, with an abundance of water ice on Europa, and Callisto.

  13. still need something like hydrogen as propellant though.. would've been better if you could up with spontaneous black hole creation to drive the vehicle forward.

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